On Tuesday, the House passed a bill to establish a one year moratorium on MnDOT implementing new ditch-mowing regulations. Late last year, MnDOT released a statement stating that they were planning to change the statewide permitting standards for mowing and bailing ditches along state roadways. Some of the new provisions laid out in their statement were very ridiculous and need further examination. Some of these outlandish provisions include: requiring a specific dress code for the operator of the vehicle and to work in a “workmanlike” manner.
On Thursday, The House began voting on budget bills; one of those being a $1.35 billion tax relief proposal for middle class Minnesotans, which passed on a bipartisan vote of 80-52. With the state experiencing a $1.6 billion surplus, proving tax relief for Minnesotans is just plain common sense.
If this tax bill is signed into law, it will be very beneficial for our local farmers and landowners. The bill includes $42 million in relief for farmers by reducing the burden they pay for school bond referendums. Farmers and landowners, on average, pay 10 times as much as those who live in town for levy referendums; this bill will help in shrinking that gap. Approximately 240,000 farmers could receive property tax relief to reduce their disproportionate share of school district debt service. Farms will also benefit from a measure conforming the state death tax to the federal exclusion. Additionally, there is a 5% tax credit for beginning farmers who purchase agricultural assets.
Other highlights of the bill include:
- $269 million in relief for Minnesota’s senior citizens by increasing the income limit at which social security income is taxable. Under current law, seniors making more than $32,000 for a married couple or $25,000 for an individual must pay taxes on social security income. Under the House proposal, that threshold would increase to $61,000 for a married couple and $46,500 for a single filer in tax year and $72,000 for a married couple and $56,000 for a single filer in 2019. As a result, by 2019 nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) would be eligible to receive a tax exemption on their social security benefits with an average tax reduction of $710.
- More than $125 million to address college affordability through a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments, along with subtractions and credits for families saving for college using 529 Savings Plans. Through the student debt tax credit, 77,500 students will receive on average a $640 reduction in their taxes.
- $35 million for families with young children by modifying the child & dependent care credit. A family of four earning $50,000 a year will receive an addition $1,200 toward their childcare expenses.
- $203 million in relief for hometown businesses by exempting the first $200,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing its automatic inflator. This helps every business owner reinvest in their business, protecting 30,000 Minnesota jobs.
- $100 million in direct property tax relief for homeowners and renters.
- Full funding for Local Government Aid/County Program Aid at current levels.
Environment and Natural Resources:
The House also passed the Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill this week. This bill streamlines environmental review, reins in government spending through agency efficiencies, and protects farmers and landowners from government overreach.
Some highlights of the bill include:
- Reforming the funding process of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) by creating more transparency on where and how efficiently funds are being used.
- Reforming the permitting process of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the MPCA, ensuring these agencies abide by the longstanding rulemaking process and don’t overstep the scope of their authority.
- Reforming the makeup of the Environmental Quality Board from statewide appointments to appointments by congressional district and narrows the focus of their work to environmental review and permitting, as it's a critical issue area that needs attention. Additionally, appointees will be required to have knowledge or experience in environmental review, so the input that is gathered is from people with real-world experience in these very complicated processes.
- Prohibiting the DNR from further restricting the use of lead shot.
The Senate will be taking up their versions of the Tax and Environment bills in the coming weeks. The discrepancies between the bills will then be resolved in conference committee.
This week Senator Gazelka and I met with Wadena County Commissioners to discuss local legislative priorities.
I also met with Farm Bureau members who serve on their board of directors: Miles Kuschel from Cass County and Debra Durheim from Todd County, as well as Commissioner Sheldon Monson’s wife, Sharin, and his two sons, Eric and Caleb.
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If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please feel free to contact me at either 651-296-4293, or firstname.lastname@example.org.